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Vandenberg firefighters protect homes, lives in Santa Barbara

SANTA BARBARA, Calif. -- As flames aproach, John Crotty, a 30th Civil Engineer Squadron fire captain, surveys the line of the Jesusita wildfire here May 7. Vandenberg's fire fighters regularly work with firefighters across the state to put out the flames during California's fire season. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Andrew Lee)

SANTA BARBARA, Calif. -- As flames aproach, John Crotty, a 30th Civil Engineer Squadron fire captain, surveys the line of the Jesusita wildfire here May 7. Vandenberg's fire fighters regularly work with firefighters across the state to put out the flames during California's fire season. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Andrew Lee)

VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. -- Two teams of firefighters from Vandenberg deployed May 5 to the Jesusita wildfire, which has burned approximately 75 homes and forced the evacuation of more than 20,000 people in Santa Barbara, Calif.

Firefighters from the 30th Civil Engineer Squadron and the Vandenberg Hot Shots crew were called upon by the State of California to help extinguish the Jesusita wildfire.

Working with 1,400 firefighting personnel from all over California, Vandenberg firefighters occupy numerous areas of responsibility, which encompass more than 1,300 acres burned by the ongoing fire.

"Vandenberg's firefighters are multi-taskers," said John Crotty, the 30th CES fire captain. "We are aiding the wildfire by providing hand-crews, structural protection and performing hose lays to contain the fire. The Vandenberg Hot Shots crew is focused on the removing of brush near the line of the fire to create a containment line around the fire."

The Vandenberg Hot Shots are a unique team of highly trained firefighters.

"The Hot Shots go through intense and extensive training," said Devin Misiewicz, a 30th CES fire inspector. "They go to an academy every year to recertify with the National Wildlife Coordination Group."

Learning how wind affects fires is part of the Hot Shots training. Wind is a critical factor in warding off the spread of fire. Recent Santa Barbara winds are causing problems for the firefighters. Approximately 10 firefighters, none of whom are from Vandenberg, have been injured since the fire began earlier this week.

"Our goal is to keep everyone safe out here," said Alan Johnson, a firefighter with the 30th CES. "With safety in mind, our job is to keep the fire at bay as long as possible. Luckily, Vandenberg has the equipment to reach out and help the local community and we take advantage of any opportunity to help."

Vandenberg's firefighters are currently working 12 to 24 hour shifts until more state-wide resources come to help establish the team before they can resume their normal shifts.

"Even though our firefighters have been working hard and long hours, the intensity of the fire, safety in mind and our strong sense of camaraderie has kept the morale of our firefighters up," Mr. Crotty said.

The Vandenberg firefighters will take a day of rest after they conclude their shifts May 8. After the 24 hour resting period, the firefighters will continue to fight the Jesusita wildfire.